Contractors rebuilding central Oklahoma after back-to-back tornadoes ruined thousands of homes in late May are taking drastic measures to hire laborers.

The Oklahoman reports that unlicensed building contractors are luring construction crews away from their employers with on-the-spot cash bonuses and the promise of hefty pay raises. The newspaper quotes Robert Crout, president of the Central Oklahoma Home Builders Association, who said some trades have reported offers of $200 to walk away from their jobs and join new construction crews.

One Oklahoma City home builder told BUILDER that the offers have been as high as $2,500.

Coupled with the post-tornado rebuilding frenzy, the housing recovery in Oklahoma has created a stranglehold on construction labor.

The volume of work and the high demand for housing has proven to be “easy pickings” for out-of-town builders without Oklahoma-issued licenses and for trades “who turned general contractor overnight,” the newspaper reports.

Even before the tornadoes, building permits were up 16.4 percent from a year ago during the first half of 2013, according to the Central Oklahoma Home Builders Association. The newspaper reports that the Moore Home Builders Association—located in the Oklahoma City hardest hit by the tornadoes—has stopped accepting membership applications so companies that are operating out of “motel-room offices and P.O. boxes” cannot use the credential to claim they are local.

Sharon O'Malley is a regular contributor to BUILDER.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Oklahoma City, OK.